Kindergarten through fourth-grade teachers gathered on a carpet covered in squares in Van Buren Elementary School’s gym Oct. 4.
A bowl filled with Twizzlers, Twix and other goodies sat nearby on the ground.
“Forty-seven!” yells Wendy Hill with The Learning Carpet TLC Inc., from Ontario, Canada.
One teacher finds the square corresponding with the number, even though the square is blank. With a smile, she grabs a piece of candy from the bowl and takes a seat.
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The teachers weren’t gathering for a round of jumbo-sized Bingo with candy rewards but rather learning how to use this carpet to teach math and even spelling, social studies and language.
Teachers have been putting it into practice since the training, said second-grade Van Buren Elementary teacher Debbie Neptune. She’s also the school’s instructional coach.
Students learn by doing, Neptune said.
“Research shows that children learn better when they are manipulating objects, participating in social and physical activities and experiencing success. They use trial and error and observe their attempts until they find the answers,” Neptune said.
“Through the movement and manipulation of the materials on/with the carpet, students gain a deeper understanding, have an increased skill level and can then apply that knowledge to daily classwork and higher-level thinking questions.”
Math teachers can use the carpet to teach patterns, fractions, analog time, area, perimeter, transformational geometry, coordinates, measurement and tessellations. Teachers can also use it to teach graphing and make comparisons using greater than, less than or equal to signs, she said.
In spelling and language classes, the carpet can be used to teach patterns, alphabetical order, word families, prefixes, suffixes and more, Neptune said.
Social studies teachers can use it to teach cardinal directions, map skills, grids, directional abilities, hemispheres, continents and ocean locations, Neptune added.
At the training, Hill showed the teachers plastic cards with 1 through 100 printed on them. One side was black and the other red. These can be used to distinguish odd and even numbers, Hill told the teachers.
But the cards aren’t necessary for students to recognize the number on the corresponding square.
All squares are unmarked. When the cards are placed on them, students can see that beginning with the top row and moving left to right, 1 through 10 fit in the squares, making a number grid. Moving down from 10, in the far right vertical row, the numbers increase by 10 until 100.
Going back to the top of the carpet to the number one space and moving one to the right and down one row will bring students to the number 12. Go down another row and the student will be standing on the number 22 spot.
But what if you went one square down diagonally from 22? Then you’d be on 33.
The idea is that once they see the pattern, students will be able to “see” the numbers without them being physically placed on the carpet.
“This board is never going to fail them if they trust it from day one,” Hill told the teachers.
Hill lined up the teachers and had them pick up two number cards each.
While they held their cards together, making numbers in the thousands, she had two others come up to put them in order — another activity teachers could do with students.
Tips from Hill included having the students call out numbers and see if they can pick the corresponding square without seeing the number cards. Teachers could also throw an object on the carpet and have the kids guess which spot it landed on.
“Children respond and learn best when given positive experiences, opportunities to succeed, make mistakes, and time to develop their own skills,” Neptune said.